Ambassador Baker interviewed on Fuji TV

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
Live Interview on Fuji-TV "Hodo 2001"
March 9, 2003

QUESTION: Good morning. We look forward to the program. First let's look at this. As we said earlier, public opinion taken by us showed that only 9.8% of Japanese believe that the U.S. can take military action against Iraq without a U.N. resolution. This is something the public has difficulty understanding. Without a new resolution to attack Iraq, why is President Bush so adamant about it?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I think President Bush feels a heavy responsibility, not only to assert those actions that are necessary to protect America. He feels a responsibility, as well, to attend to the security relationships of his allies, including Japan, including other nations of the Middle East region. Polls are seldom reassuring, but polls are not what drive government. The President is convinced that this is the right course of action, and I believe he will follow this course of action, and I believe as time goes on that the country - Japan - the United States, and the rest of the world will fall in behind these efforts by the President, because so clearly they are calculated to stand down the dangers presented by the Saddam Hussein administration, and to bring back peace and stability in that region and to enhance it in the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Yes, the purpose, though, of course, is to destroy Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. But looking at the report from Hans Blix at the U.N., he says that Iraq, although not fully cooperative, is cooperating towards the inspections, that Iraq is cooperative by continuing the inspections. Can we not get rid of the threat? What do you think about it?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I think that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have been under an obligation through twelve resolutions - not one, not two, but twelve resolutions - to identify their weapons of mass destruction and set about to destroy them. And, I think, consistently Iraq has not done that. It may be impossible for us to find, without the full cooperation of Iraq, where those weapons are. But keep in mind, Resolution 1441 places the burden on Iraq to locate those weapons, to identify them, and to destroy them. The obligation is not on the inspectors. The inspectors are doing a good job. The inspectors are making progress, but there's very little cooperation from Iraq, and there's very little success in finding where their weapons of mass destruction are. So I think that we've got to continue the pressure on Saddam Hussein. I think the world community must make it clear that Saddam Hussein cannot continue with the business of the concealment and the threat of weapons of mass destruction - and I think that's what's going on now. I think that America and other nations of the world, I think the United Nations, are being very patient, very deliberate, very careful in the matter of approaching this. But at some point, time is going to run out.

QUESTION: Why, though, internationally, why can we not get cooperation from other countries? Germany, Russia and France are against it quite strongly. Is it a miscalculation for the U.S. that they would be so against it?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I don't think that we should say that France and Germany are opposed. On the contrary, if you examine their statements, examine their positions in the United Nations, what you find is a question not of principle, but you find a question of time: Give the inspectors more time, give us more inspectors. But I don't believe that Germany or France, or for that matter any other significant power, has said "Let's not go about the business of finding if Saddam Hussein is, in fact, the possessor of weapons of mass destruction." No one has disputed that he's a danger to the region. The question is time. When are you going to do what? And that, I'm sure, is what the President of the United States means when he says that time is about to run out. You can't go on waiting forever, because it creates opportunities for Saddam Hussein to conceal, for him to develop, for him to become an even more serious threat to the region and to the world community. So I do not place high importance on the verbal differences between Germany, France and the United States. I think, rather, it's a question of degree, not of principle. I think it's a question of words. I think it is not a question of final intent; it's a question of time.

QUESTION: Let's say you attack Iraq. After that, how are you going to control the country? You want to have a democratic country come out of Iraq, but without the U.N. mechanism, with U.S. attacks, and then if the U.S. occupation stays, is it going to be an solitary move by the U.S. to occupy Iraq for a long time? Do you think the international community will accept that?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I can give you my speculation. I have no instructions on how that will be done. I know what I've read in the newspaper and heard on television. But I have a strong view that the United States - after conflict is over, after regime change has been accomplished, after we have identified the weapons of mass destruction and rendered them harmless - I have an idea that the United States and others similarly minded will set about the business of trying to construct a framework, a skeletal machine, so that we can build a democratic government in Iraq. The United States has no desire - and our President has said more than once - the United has no desire to try to rule Iraq. What we do have a desire to do is to see that the resources and the wealth of Iraq are returned to the people of Iraq. We aspire to see that weapons of mass destruction are identified and destroyed, and that we bring stability to the region. But America does not wish - I'm confident, I'm certain - the United States does not wish to govern Iraq. I really believe that after conflict with Iraq, the community of world nations will be involved, and I think Japan will be involved. Japan has shown a remarkable ability for after-conflict conduct. You've done it in Afghanistan. You've done it in East Timor. You've done it in other areas. You've shown, you've displayed, an ability and a talent for taking care of a situation after conflict occurs. I would not be surprised if Japan does find a role for itself in the post-conflict Iraq, as well, because you have developed a great expertise in that field.

QUESTION: Specifically, what do you think the U.S. will be asking Japan, let's say the attack begins, during the attack? Do you think there will be requests from the U.S. to Japan to do something?

AMBASSADOR: I've been here now about two years, a little less than two years. In the course of that time, I believe I have never once tried to tell Japan what it ought to do. Japan, after all, is a great sovereign nation, and can decide what it wants to do itself, and has the resources to do it. But what I have done is share the American experience. We share American intelligence. We share our own ideas about how cooperation between our countries as allies would be most useful. But we have never, I believe, told Japan what we think it ought to do. I have high confidence, however, that the common interests for security by Japan and the United States will be so confluent that there will be no disagreement. I would not expect Japan to be involved in active combat. I would think that, possibly, Japan will be involved in support operations, as they were in the Persian Gulf, and appear to be fully within the scope of your constitution, your laws, your culture. I'll think you'll work that out. But I don't think America's going to try and tell Japan what to do. America, I believe, will look to Japan for aid and assistance, as appropriate, as you expect from an ally and a friend. Let me say, by the way, that in those two years I've been here, I've concluded that Japan is far more than an ally. Japan is a friend. America and Japan are friends. Friends work things out, and I think we will in this case.

QUESTION: But as you said earlier, in terms of reconstruction, Japan is very good, and you expect Japan to take a part in that for Iraq?

AMBASSADOR: I would certainly think so. As I say, I believe Japan has developed a special competence in that field, and has special experience in that field. It's an odd result of your constitutional provision against direct involvement in conflict, that you are able then to focus your energy on post-conflict issues, and now you are probably the world's leader, and have the expertise to say how you should handle situations post-conflict. I would be very surprised if Japan was not extensively involved in the reconstruction and the rearrangement and the revitalization of Iraq.

QUESTION: In that case, for Japan, in terms of support, will we be asked to pay monetarily, take on a financial burden for the support? Do we have to pay some sort of reconstruction money to the Iraqi issue?

AMBASSADOR: In the modern world, very few things cannot be expressed in terms of money, so the chances are that there will be a money component, both from America, from the UK, from Japan, and I would expect from Germany and France. While Germany and France, and the United States and Japan, may have a difference on when to change the regime in Iraq, I don't think they have any disagreement on the matter of the desirability of reconstituting Iraq so that it can rejoin the community of nations, and bring peace and stability to the region. It's entirely possible, and I believe likely, that all of the nations - the great nations of the world - will be involved in a financial part in trying to relieve the suffering and provide for the future of Iraq.

QUESTION: Mr. Abe was saying earlier that next to Iraq is the North Korean crisis. We have to link the two, we think, but to the U.S. side, are North Korea and Iraq linked issues or separate? Unless we support an Iraqi attack, we don't want the U.S. to leave us behind when a North Korean situation happens.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: No, you certainly do not. What I'm about to say now is not a statement of my government. It is my personal view. But in my personal view, there is greater risk and danger from the Korean Peninsula than there is from Iraq. I think I can see how the Iraqi issue will resolve. I can't say exactly how it will, but I see the general outlines of how that will resolve, how it will end. But I cannot clearly see what North Korea has in mind. I don't full understand what they are doing. They are uttering provocations, one after the other, whether it is testing a missile, whether it is disclosing their nuclear capability, whether it's withdrawing from the Nonproliferation Treaty, whether it's withdrawing from the Armistice Agreement - and it just goes on and on. There's a provocation a week, sometimes more often that that. And it's the continuum of provocation that worries me. I don't know why they're doing it, but I know they're playing a dangerous game. I hope that they will stop that, because at some point the international community must take account of the fact that North Korea is uttering threats and doing threatening things that are a great danger not just to Japan and Korea and China and Russia, perhaps to the United States as well. But on this issue, I urge that the Japanese people, the Chinese people, the Russian people, address the issue of what do we do about this. That's why our President has called for a multilateral contact with North Korea, because it's a multilateral risk. I think it would be presumptuous in the extreme for America to say "We're going to have a conference with North Korea, and we're going to settle this thing without involving China or South Korea and Russia," because in offhand candor, America is not at risk from North Korea. America can take care of itself with anything North Korea has. It is the countries of this region that are involved, so they should be involved in the matter of dealing with North Korea. That is why our President calls for a multilateral conference to talk about these issues.

QUESTION: Yes, a multilateral discussion for a peaceful resolution is best. Let's say North Korea is much more critical than Iraq in some sense. In the end, though, with North Korea, do you think there will be military action by the U.S. eventually? Is there a possibility still?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I have a personal view on that, too. I don't think presidents or prime ministers should ever say "never." I think you should reserve that option. If you ask me is it likely that there will be military action by the United States, I would say no. If you ask me will there never be the threat of military action, I will not say no. I do not predict it, but I do not exclude it. When I said a moment ago that North Korea is playing a dangerous game, they can play a dangerous enough game so that the world community will decide that something has to be done about it by force of arms. It has not reached that point, and I hope it does not reach that point. In my view, what I hope happens is that the North Korean people, the North Korean government, will come to the realization that their present conduct, which is essentially international blackmail with nuclear weapons in order to obtain money and things of value, isn't going to work, and that they'll change their policy. And if they change their policy and reduce the risk of conflict, I think they'll find the world community, including the United States and Japan, will respond in a very favorable way. But the North Koreans are playing a very dangerous game, and I think their interests are receding instead of improving as a result of that.

QUESTION: Understood. In the case of Afghanistan, you also were kind enough to join our program. We asked what the U.S. was asking Japan, and you said that Japan had to think for itself. Thank you very much once again for giving us that same answer. We appreciate it so much. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: You are very welcome.

For more information, contact Press Attache Patrick J. Linehan 3224-5271 ( or Deputy Press Attache Judith L. Bryan 3224-5262 (

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